The New Zealand timber industry should be aiming to treble its workforce and contribution to the country’s GDP by 2025.

This was the view of New Zealand Forest Industries Council chief executive Stephen Jacobi speaking at the organisation’s seminar “Building a partnership for wood”.

He said that the industry has already doubled the value of sawn timber exports since 1998 to NZ$920 million.

“In a fairly short time [the timber sector] has become the country’s third largest export sector, with a turnover of NZ$5 billion , employing 25,000 people and contributing 4% to GDP.”

Mr Jacobi added that the industry’s “vision for the year 2025” is to boost this GDP contribution to 14%, while increasing its workforce to 60,000 and achieving total turnover or NZ€20 billion.

He acknowledged that current conditions in the international timber market were tough. As a result, first quarter 2003 timber sector turnover was down 10.8%. The climate had also slowed re-planting, which was likely to delay New Zealand reaching its 2007 wood supply target of 30.7 million m3 (compared to 15 million m3 in 1994).

To achieve the 2025 goals, Mr Jacobi said that further major investment was needed in timber processing and finished wood product manufacture.

  “We need additional investment of at least NZ$3 billion by 2010 to process half the additional harvest by 2015.”

The timber industry should also promote its products more strongly and fight New Zealand’s Building Industry Authority which in toughening up the country’s Building Code could damage the timber construction sector.

“Realising the timber industry’s Vision 2025 is about understanding consumers, increasing investment in added value processing and exports, combined with increasing the use of wood in the domestic market, ” said Mr Jacobi.